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Locals have big dreams for proposed Wadena library

Plans and a possible price tag were presented last week for the proposed new Wadena City Library. Three proposed plans were drawn up by designers from BKV Group and they were each presented by project manager Anthony Enright Tuesday, Oct. 16. Whi...

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Designers from BKV Group have started putting together concepts like this for the former Wadena First National Bank. Bright, fun colors are being considered to create more of a library feel. Image courtesy BKV Group.
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Plans and a possible price tag were presented last week for the proposed new Wadena City Library.

Three proposed plans were drawn up by designers from BKV Group and they were each presented by project manager Anthony Enright Tuesday, Oct. 16. While costs started out around $1.9 million to renovate the former First National Bank building, the option the library board, Friends of the Wadena Library and librarian Renee Frethem recommended pursuing has an estimated cost of $2.4 million. The group discussed the cost and found that just doing the upper level saved about $300,000. Including the lower level was something that the group strongly supported.

That cost is preliminary, Enright explained, as the actual costs have only been estimated based on similar projects. It also includes a 20 percent contingency cost and an estimated 6 percent inflation rate. Construction costs were around $1.8 million, while costs for furniture, fixtures, engineering and architecture, insurance and attorney fees were estimated at about $550,000.

"At this level of detail there are still many items to be defined, so the estimate is an overall estimate that will be further detailed as the project proceeds," the design document explained.

Library stakeholders shared that information with Wadena city council members with the hope of getting their blessing to move forward with that plan in mind. Council members unanimously showed their approval of the group pursuing this plan.

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In giving the go ahead to start fundraising efforts, council members also agreed that the cost was of concern as it would require a lot of fundraising and grant writing. Frethem was aware of the heavy work ahead but was eager to get started. She added that the Friends of the Library group was here to help in this effort.

"That's what friends are for," Frethem said.

Mayor George Deiss made it clear the the city would not be bonding for this project and if enough money did not come in from fundraising efforts that the group may have to either look at a lower cost option or other options all together. City officials were not in favor of the remodel being a burden on taxpayers.

"At some point we have to decide how much is too much," council member Bruce Uselman said. "Is it going to be a Cadillac or it it going to be a Chevrolet?"

Frethem said they library board was not proposing that the taxpayers pay for this, rather they needed approval from the city to get the ball rolling on the project.

Former city administrator Brad Swenson was also in attendance and noted that the stakeholders should take into consideration that this building has about twice the footprint of the existing library and would require more cost to maintain and more cost for utilities. Frethem said she has been tracking the utility costs to get an idea what that may cost.

The need for a new library has been ongoing as the library struggles with a lack of space.

Frethem said there has been interest in the current library building by others in the community.

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What's the plan?

The preliminary drawings of the new Wadena City Library show an abundance of modern, interactive spaces designed for different age groups and built with flexibility in mind. Of the three options, the one selected as the most responsive to the needs of the library creates a plan that opens up the main level to the lower level, resulting in a more dynamic and user friendly building, according to designers. Most of the work would involve converting what looks like a bank into library space. Enright said very little exterior work is needed other than signage and the addition of a garden area, which would be in the current drive-thru area. Exterior work included more outdoor seating areas.

Entering into the new library, the plan shows an open look out towards the circulation desk in the middle of the building. The most talked about feature included two open looks into the lower level. Stairs and an elevator would lead to the lower level. That elevator was something that the group agreed needed to be installed. That feature alone was expected to cost around $200,000.

Other unique features included a two-sided fireplace, possible self checkout areas and AV storage that utilizes the old bank vaults.

Kids: There's a special space devoted to kids with lots of platforms and seating for active learning, reading and programs.

Teens: The big plan includes a space for teens in the basement. This was an important part as the library wanted to make sure there was a space youth could use and feel it was a safe place to come and learn. It's a space that could fill a need left open after the closing of the Cyber Cafe. This lower level includes a planned "Maker's Space," where youth can work on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) projects. Talk of a coffee cart was considered.

Adults: New computer areas, lower shelving and more room create lots of places to get lost in a good book, yet all spaces are more visible to staff than the current library.

Upon hearing the plan and seeing what it could be, library board member Jake Heppner commented, "This is better than I thought it could be."

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Enright made note that the city made a good purchase when they acquired the First National Bank.

History

Wadena State Bank acquired First National Bank in Wadena in January 2017. The city of Wadena acquired the First National Bank building following a purchase agreement that council members agreed on in December 2017. The purchase price was $175,000 and included a $206,000 donation from the bank owners, the Brownes, to the city based on the appraised price versus the sale price. The money for this was to come from the City General Fund reserves and the council was to talk further about going to the Friends of the Library, going to the library endowment fund, library gifts and memorial fund to reimburse themselves all or a portion of this money.

The city focused in on the bank building after hiring Library Consulting of St. Paul regarding the existing public library on First Street SW. The findings of a needs assessment and site analysis showed the consulting firm's recommendation was that Wadena needed to double the size of its public library, which opened in 1985.

A Pioneer Journal article from January 2018 states that research showed building a new library would cost about $3 million. At that time, it was also estimated that it would cost about $1.5 million to remodel the bank building, according to former city administrator Brad Swenson. Other sites looked at included the old Coast-to-Coast building (now being remodeled into a brewery), the former Super One building (now be remodeled as the future home of Super One Foods), and the United Methodist Church, which is still serving a church and remains for sale.

The Library Committee which was made up of Brad Swenson, George Deiss, Jessie Gibbs, Renee Frethem, Maria Marthaler and Bonnie Ealy met on May 4, 2018 to interview four of architect firms for the library project. BKV was chosen from this group.

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A proposed layout for the new Wadena City Library has flexibility at the forefront with rooms that can be closed off or opened for various group sizes and activities. Image courtesy BKV Group.

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